The Sessions: Movie Review

The Sessions: Movie Review

Cast: John Hawkes, William H Macy,Helen Hunt, Moon Bloodgood
Director: Ben Lewin

Martha Marcy May Marlene's cult leader John Hawkes takes the lead in this film which broke out at the Sundance festival this year and is based on a true story.

Hawkes plays journalist and writer Mark O'Brien, who's been paralysed from the neck down due to contracting polio when he was younger. O'Brien lives his days in an iron lung, and one day after falling in love and being rejected by his carer, and when researching an article on Sex and the Disabled at an editor's request, he decides he wants to lose his virginity after 38 years of life.

So, to that end, via a friend and with the blessing of his priest (brilliantly played by a shaggy haired William H Macy) O'Brien contacts sex surrogate, Cheryl (Helen Hunt) to help out.

Cheryl begins a series of six sessions with O'Brien to help him achieve his goal....

The Sessions will knock you sideways.

John Hawkes is frankly a revelation in this film; it's a role which has little physical presence other than moving his head and speaking  but Hawkes imbues his O'Brien with a real strength of character, charm and humour and delivers such an affecting performance that you can't help but be moved by it. Don't get me wrong - this is no mawkish, dragged down into the mire piece - it's the very opposite in fact thanks to Hawkes' performance and a very sharp and witty script.

It's also a film about celebrating a full life whatever the limitations placed on you are - be they physical, mental or religious - and Hawkes delivers that conviction in spades thanks to some greatly amusing lines, a brilliantly warm, witty and real friendship between him and William H Macy's priest and a relationship between himself and his carer Vera (a supporting role played with sensitivity and heart by Moon Bloodgood).

Also Helen Hunt delivers a bravura performance as well - stripping down literally and metaphorically for the audience. Gently played and sensitively handled, Cheryl feels like a real character rather than a sleazy stereotype.

The Sessions is a deeply engaging and powerfully accessible film which has been carefully put together by Lewin, a former polio sufferer. But it's a film which stands or falls on the performance of its lead - and Hawkes delivers in spades despite the physical limitations of what's demanded of him. It's really one of the strongest performances of its ilk that I've seen on the screen in a long time.

Don't miss The Sessions - it may make you re-evaluate your life and will deliver you a film which is mature, thoughtful, funny and hauntingly good.




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